Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sorting Saturday - What To Do With Ancestors Who Aren't Your Ancestors

Sometimes in our research we come across multiple individuals with the same name, born about the same time in the same area. It becomes necessary to be able to distinguish between these people in order to sort out "our" ancestor from the rest. It's also necessary to keep those records organized and available for future reference when we inevitably need to refer to them once again.

When I was analyzing Bessie Passmore's birth certificate, I discovered 3 Thomas Passmore's (Bessie's father) who were born in Ohio in the same time frame as "my" Thomas Passmore. According to Bessie's birth certificate, her father was born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

I noticed on several of Ancestry's Family Trees that various people have connected the Thomas who is in my line with the families of these other Thomas's. Also, I've already been asked by one relative what I thought about Thomas being in one of those lines.

Just to be sure of my logic, I followed these other men through the federal census where it quickly became obvious they couldn't be a match into my family line. It occurs to me that, sometime in the future, I may need to explain my logic in detail. So I've saved my worksheets in order to be able to review them with an interested researcher.

But now where to store this information? Do I keep it with "my" Thomas Passmore? Or store it separately in a "Not My Passmore" file? I'm leaning toward storing digitized copies only in a separate "Not My Passmore" file.

What do you do with similar information?

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. That's one of the things I'm doing with my blog...I have certain entries I title "Bits and Pieces," and I am placing information I've discovered like you described, as well as marriage records of other families that I copied on the same page as the *one* entry I needed out of the courthouse record...the "extra" people, usually called "domestic servant," "boarder," or "farm hand" on one census record or another.

    They belong to someone's family, and I am hoping Google and other search engines will pick them up.

  2. I would keep it as researched but not my relative file. You could make it a sub file in your "Real" relative file.

    It would be important to save just in case you need to review in case someone contacts you. Your REAL relatives may be their NOT REAL ancestors.

    This has happened to me and I hope I saved them a lot of fruitless research.

  3. I have that same issue with several ancestors, most notably a gr-gr-grandfather, Amos DeHart. Since I haven't been able to find out my Amos's parentage, I can't rule out that his contemporary Amos DeHarts weren't cousins of some sort to my Amos. To avoid confusion, yet to keep my work handy for future reference, I keep the other Amoses (along with other dupilicate "not mines") in a separate file.

    That way I don't waste time by looking at the wrong record, yet it is still handy just in case I need to refer to it.

  4. I have several situations like this - as well as several "as yet to be determined" projects in the works. I think of these as negative proofs and am keeping the notes or analyses in the digital file folder for my relative.

  5. I frequently include this kind of information in my notes. Summarize the research, keeping it with the person, and why I don't believe this is my lineage. Sometimes I even state, found 10 other people by same name, etc. I believe in NOTES NOTES and MORE NOTES!!

  6. Michelle,
    I agree with you except if I do already have a hard copy, I don't throw it away. I have a hard copy file folder, a hard drive folder and a separate database file for all of the unknowns. All of those folders/files are named "Suspected SURNAME" that I have named after the four grandparents. Especially true for the farther generations back, you never know who may turn out to be a cousin.

    Your comment, "It occurs to me that, sometime in the future, I may need to explain my logic in detail." brings to mind that I should be recording more details for these folks, especially the details about 'ruling them out'.

  7. I keep a folder for each family that is entitled "Associated Families, Leads, and Wanna-Bes" that has a subfolder called something like "NOT Our Lewis Family." That way I don't forget that I've ruled them out and have evidence to disprove the relationship to people who want to "graft that branch onto our family tree." And I do try to follow up on those boarders, servants, and farm hands - it's how I found out one ancestor was a Dallas County sheriff!

  8. I, too, decided that the other "Thomas'" were of the "doubting" sort... (actually, absolute "NOTS") so I made up a separate 3" binder with 16 tabs to cover all the discarded trails. 16 lines of ancestors will probably lead to many dead trails, but have found that in several cases, my research has benefited other people on their quest. Happy to share and saves them time.

  9. I use the program The Master Genealogist (TMG) and record some of those "not my ancestors" that are likely to confuse in my database. That way I can record the info I know about them, as well as any notes to myself about conclusions I have drawn. I can flag them as "not my ancestors". When I find information about someone of that name & look up my database, I can see that there are multiple people to consider.

  10. Wow! Some really great feedback. A couple of things caught my eye:

    Dee-What a great idea to include the "extra" people in your blog so search engines can pick them up.

    Anonymous - You are so right. Sometimes our research can help an unrelated person. Let's face it one thing all of us have in common, if not the same ancestors, is too many ancestors to research and not enough time. So if you can help someone else out....

    Kerry & Carol - It hadn't occurred to me to use my genealogy data base to record these "not my ancestor individuals". Great idea!